- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Sergeant Arthur Pritchard - 'Taffy'
- Background to story:
- Royal Air Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 19 August 2005
‘Georges Dantan on days this week. He promised to take me down to his garden this afternoon when he comes home. He has also promised to get me a packet of fags. It will cost me 100 francs, well on 35 for 20 cigs, but I had 2000 francs when I hit the deck so it’s not so bad. Cost of living is very high here a pair of shoes cost 1200 francs, 1lb of butter (if obtainable) would cost 500 francs. No tea but plenty of wine and coffee. Bread is rationed to one loaf per 4 persons for 2 days. We bake our own so it’s not so bad. Georges told me yesterday 17 people were shot and 70 taken prisoner in the next town from here for looting a train full of foodstuff going to the Boche on the Western Front. Georges got away with a tin of ham and some other stuff.’
‘M.Dantan came home from work today and brought with him one cigarette which he managed to buy in Paris for 6 francs. Also said that a body of an Australian airman was found not far from where I came down. His chute had failed to open. Wonder if it can be one of the boys, hope to God it’s not. I saw two Lanc’s go down a bit before we got hit so there might be a chance; will know his name before the week is out and again I hope it’s not one of the boys.’
‘Woke up early this morning and had a feed of ham for breakfast. Have just finished making a cigarette out of some old cigar leaf. Georges brought me some cigarette paper from Paris yesterday. Making these cigarettes reminds me of Price of Old Menai (name of baker in Arthurs home village of Port Dinorwic near Bangor North Wales). Trains went through here very frequent last night, packed with lorries, tanks and so on. Gerry soon repaired the line after we pranged it. Seems that my journey here was in vain. Will commence on sewing on my chevrons after I finish writing. All ready for the great liberation which will mean a hell of a lot to me.’
‘I have just finished cooking the tea. M.Dantan should be home any minute now. After tea it’s straight to bed as there is nothing else to do. To bed to worry about home.’
‘Nothing of interest to write about. I’m cheesed off to the whole world, would give myself up, only that the Gerry might trace my movements back to this place. That would mean a few people shot on my account. Tuned in to the Forces programme. Good dance music on. Would be better if I had a fag to go with it. Expecting their grandmother (Madame Berthe Fasiant) down from Arpajon. She’s got nothing to say to me as she was at Juvisy when we pranged the place.’
2 o’ clock
‘M.Dantan came home from work with the news that they would radio London tomorrow with the gen about me. Seems that Mam will know by Saturday. The old boy was also telling me that eleven Frenchmen were shot in Paris yesterday and 16 today. Some because they carried arms and others for shouting ‘Vive la England’. Wonder if he realises that him and all his family would be shot for keeping me here. Still, we’re going out walking this afternoon under the very nose of the Boche anti-aircraft defence (at Wissous). Had an eyeful while there and saw how the Gerry do it. ‘worse than a bunch of Yanks’. Also saw a French girl walking out with a Gerry, the first I’ve seen yet. It was easy to see that the locals took a dim view of her. N.B. some lovely dames here. Will do ok when our boys come along.’
‘Garden at the outskirts of Antony at a place called Wissous. Anti-aircraft defence at Wissous station and siding.’
‘Finished cleaning my suit this morning, all set for the great day. Have even had the old whistle put in her place. Haven’t had a smoke now for 2 days. Made one myself out of dried leaves and salt last night. Nearly knocked me for six. Forgot to mention that I have now an identity card of my own under the name of Arthur Bovier (cuisinier / cook). I am also a deaf and dumb merchant. Guess that’s not far from wrong for when Dantan and myself have a chat it’s with a piece of chalk and a blackboard. Don’t want to be here long enough to learn the language. Grandmother came down from Arpajon this afternoon with some eats and M.Dantan bought me a pipe in Paris, but no tobacco. Things are grim as far as the latter is concerned. Four Yanks baled out over Arpajon yesterday, only one was captured, the others are still on the run. The old woman passed through Jivisy today and said it is still in a ‘hell of a mess’ or some such words.’
‘Late last night two chaps came here. One was from Arpajon, the chap who took me in after I left Egley (Hector Gaillet). Their orders were that I was to leave tomorrow morning for England, everything is ready. Seems that I also have a pal to voyage with, baled out on the same night as myself. Wonder if it would be one of the boys. Grandmother left for Paris this morning after cooking the dinner for us. Last words were ‘bon voyage’ and I hope so too. Roll on England and cigarettes. On or about the 23rd June, a guide arrived and we cycled the 22km back to his house just outside Arpajon. I stayed there for 2 days. The local Resistance were expecting a Lysander aircraft to land on their landing strip. We left that evening for the strip after waiting for sometime in a nearby wood, news came through that the aircraft would not be coming that evening; after some deliberation amongst themselves they decided to hide me in a dugout which was situated in some wood by the Montlhery Water Tower. I was there for the rest of the night, and the following day the local Resistance leader, M.Paul Gautier took me to his house but explained that it would be too risky for me to stay too long. He had a canning factory and the Germans visited him at least once a week to arrange delivery to the airfield nearby.’
Arthur’s recollection in November 2004
‘Had three different places after that. One place he was supplying peas for the Germans, he was Paul Gautier. He was playing a double game with the Germans you see. As far as food was concerned, it was no bother at all. We only stayed a day and a half there, then I joined up with an Australian in Gautier s house. We went to the other end of the village and then down a steep slope from the road. A little gate to a little cottage at the bottom and we went in there, and his wife was there and a little baby. He was a tough guy. Anyway, on the third day he said “I am going away early, I’ve got business to do in Paris and you¹ll read about in the paper.” They assassinated the French equivalent of the chancellor. He said a car would call for us and it took us up to the top. After a brief stay with M.Paul I was taken to his brother-in-law Louis and Colette Gautier who lived at 11 Rue Alexandre Prou, overlooking Montlhery. I was soon joined by two more fliers, an Australian called Roly, and a Londoner called Peter. Peter had been in France for sometime and could converse in French which made life easier for us all. He insisted on after-dark PT every night in the garden with a cold water shower from the garden hose to follow.
There was one incident when a lorry came to take an Englishman from London, myself, a yank, and an Australian. There were four of us staying in this house, like sardines. So, we went in the back of the lorry, off we went. One of the fella’s taking us, I think it was wood he had underneath his shoes. I had my flying shoes on that I had cut down from my flying boots. Anyway, I gave him my shoes and he gave me his and I said I’ll be in England no time now. News came through that the transport was not coming, they cancelled it. Back we went in the lorry and I was left with those shoes! We stayed with Louis and Collette until Montlhery was liberated on 23rd August. That evening a party was arranged at the Cheval Blance. Later the same evening some war correspondents came to the Cheval. One introduced himself as Rex North of the Sunday Pictorial. We were offered a lift into Paris the next day.
This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Becky Barugh of the BBC Radio Shropshire CSV Action Desk on behalf of Des Evans and has been added to the site with his permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.
See more of Des’s stories:
- Bale out!
- Missions from Woodhall Spa
- Tracers coming through the thatch
- I didn’t quite get the chop
- Little humour in adversity
- Ted Porters Crew
- The ‘Augsburg Raid’
- S/L Sherwood’s recommendation for the Victoria Cross
- The worst night of the War…
- The worst night of the War (Part 2)
- The worst night of the War (Part 3) - Crew
- The worst night of the War (Part 4) - Losses
- The worst night of the War (Part 5) — Extract from ‘the Berlin’ Raids’
- The worst night of the War (Part 6) — Bombers over Berlin
- The worst night of the War (Part 7) — Combat Report
- A Dedication to Skipper Wing Commander Ted Porter - Pause for Thought
- A Dedication to Skipper Wing Commander Ted Porter — A Navigators View of the Route to Heaven
- Did you know?
- Flight Operations carried out with Sgt. D.C Plaunt
- Flight Operations carried out by Sgt. J.J Johnson
- The experiences of ‘Taffy’ after baling out on 9th — 10th June 1944
- The experiences of ‘Taffy’ after baling out on the 9th - 10th June 1944 - Continued
- The experiences of ‘Taffy’ - 11th June 1944
- The experiences of ‘Taffy’ - 12th — 15th June 1944
- The experiences of ‘Taffy’ - 16th - 18th June 1944
- The experiences of ‘Taffy’ — 24th August 1044
- ‘Our Heroes’
For further stories read ‘ACHIEVE YOUR AIM’ by Kevin Bending
For more information click on the link below:
© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you can use this.